Drunken Noodles

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What’s so drunken about these noodles, you ask?  They look perfectly poised, don’t they?  There is no alcohol in the recipe, after all.  Well…  Let me tell you a story.

If you go to Salvador Molly’s in Portland, there’s a picture of me on the wall–a reward for conquering five of their habanero fritters, plus habanero salsa (as seen on Man vs. Food!).  During that experience, I found that I had never consumed a beer (and an almost-full second one that I hijacked from my supportive and sympathetic companion) so quickly, before or since.

…And that, friends, is how anything that is spicy enough can make you drunk.

I suppose your alternative in such a situation could be whole milk (capsaicin is fat- and alcohol-soluble).  In that case, we’d have to call this dish, I don’t know, Bloated Noodles, or Look Ma, Strong Bones Noodles…  Not that catchy.

So. Here we have a dozen fresh Thai chile peppers, which was the ideal amount of heat in my book.  The ideal amount of heat in my book is what I call “almost not pleasurable.”  I want to cry, and I want to sweat, but I want to want to keep eating; finding this balance is a delicate art.

The tomatoes round out this dish with bites of fresh, tangy relief from all the heat.  You’ll be glad to have them around…  I was.  And beer.  You’ll need beer.

Spicy is just one of many dimensions here, though.  We have soy sauces (both light and black: the former salty, the latter sweeter) and fish sauce for savory, complex depth.  Thai basil for a touch of fresh and fragrant.

Remember middle school science lab, where we were told not to stick things in our faces to smell them, but rather wave the fumes toward us?  I don’t mean to scare anyone, but this is sort of like that.  My face got ambushed by chile pepper fumes…  More than once.  Of course, I sort of liked it.

What I liked the most, though?  Eating dinner.

I mean it when I say that this is worth making even if you don’t like spicy things.  Like I said–this is just a really delicious, multi-dimensional noodle dish.  Just cut the chile peppers–by at least half.  Three or four would work just fine.

Drunken Noodles
(recipe from Epicurious

1 14-ounce package 1/2-inch wide dried rice noodles
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh Thai chiles (about 12 peppers)
1 pound ground chicken (thigh meat if you can find it)
2 Anaheim chiles or 1 green bell pepper, cut into strips

2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons black soy sauce
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 plum tomatoes, cut into wedges
1/4 cup fresh Thai basil leaves, chopped, plus additional for topping

Place the noodles in a large bowl and cover with hot water.  Soak until tender but still firm to bite (about half an hour in my experience), then drain and rinse with cool water and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat and add garlic and chile peppers; saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds or so.  Stir in the chicken, Anaheim chiles or bell pepper, fish sauce, both soy sauces and sugar and continue cooking, using a wooden spoon to break up the chicken, until the chicken is cooked through and peppers are tender (4 minutes or so).  Stir in the noodles and tomatoes and toss to coat thoroughly with sauce.  Remove from heat, stir in the chopped basil, and serve immediately, topped with additional basil.  Serves 4-6.

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  1. Tim in TN says

    Had this for dinner and the flavor was really good…balanced, deep and spicy. I loved that my family of four had leftovers enough for four more servings (though I’m the only one who eats leftovers). Next time I will double the liquids to make it more saucy. And, oh yeah, there will be a next time. Thank you for this recipe.